Māori are facing a demographic time bomb that cannot be ignored, says Rauawaawa Kaumātua Charitable Trust chief executive Rangimahora Reddy.
The number of Māori over 65s is expected to rise from 44,000 to 121,000 by 2036, an increase of 175 percent.
Ms Reddy, who organised a Kaumātua Service Providers Conference to plan help for older Māori, said many kaumātua were already struggling.
"One of the things that we've found as a grassroots provider is that our kaumātua are really doing it hard ... in the sense of financial poverty, financial challenges, homelessness, social isolation. Just a real lack of support that is available," Ms Reddy said.
Many Māori elders no longer owned their own homes, he said.
"When you have kaumātua renting and the landlord decides the rent needs to increase the pension doesn't adjust for that and the living allowance is limited, so what happens is people who are renting are very vulnerable to a state of homelessness and that is the reality across the motu."
Ms Reddy said the predictions of an ageing population meant it could be planned for.
"Why not together learn how to do it better for them now?
"So when our tamariki become kaumātua they are going to be so much better off and more able to contribute to the community."
Hei Manaaki Nga Kaumātua Charitable Trust chairperson Rob Beckett said too many marae still had accessibility issues.
Mr Beckett, who has used a wheelchair for 38 years following an accident, is focused on getting more funding to build ramps and improve access to marae for disabled and older Māori.
"Especially when you consider a marae is your tūrangawaewae, the place where you're from ... if the accessibility is difficult you're going to feel more challenged and more diffident about going to that place you come from," he said.
Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta told the conference Te Puni Kōkiri was supporting extended families to get into larger homes.
"We're looking to ensure that simple things like the design of papakāinga, if you're looking for intergenerational accommodation, can accommodate three generations living in the same home," Ms Mahuta said.
About 200 practitioners, academics and policy makers have gathered at the conference to form a strategy to help older Māori now and to plan for the next wave of kaumātua.
It is projected that by 2036, the number of people aged 65 and over in New Zealand will increase by 77 percent to more than 1.25 million people. The number of Pākehā aged over 65 is expected to increase from 608,000 to 974,000, a 60 percent rise.